We Have Been Criminalized by an Overabundance of Laws
“Order may be nothing more than evidence of tyranny. Order may be nothing more than the prohibitions on freedom, the elimination of rights and the suppression of liberty. You are just as unsafe when things are too orderly as when they are disorderly.” — Jerry Day
Governments have learned that laws can be used as revenue and control measures by criminalizing more and more of human activity. Indeed, in many instances the term “criminal” is now meaningless as law enforcement has become a greater threat to ordinary people than actual criminals.
At an accelerating rate, western governments are criminalizing victimless trivialities for profit and control of the masses. In Denmark, the laws governing unemployment benefits are more than 36,000 pages and grow by almost seven pages daily on average. A massive 20,000 laws have been formulated to control ownership and use of guns in the US. The taxfoundation.org has shown that in order to understand and comply with US tax laws one must go through about 80,000 pages. Civil libertarians protest that prosecutors can charge any American with several crimes every day of the year because there are so many laws and regulations. See, for example, Harvey A. Silverglate, Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent.
As it is impossible for a person to peruse all the required pages in order to comply with the laws, we are all probable criminals. Thus, the word “criminal” has effectively lost its meaning. Governments not only criminalize behavior for revenue purposes and in order to create a slave prison population to be exploited by private industries. Governments also legalize crimes, such as gambling for which government prosecuted private interests, and turn them into government sponsored lotteries. There is also evidence that the US government is actively involved in illegal drug trade.
San Jose Mercury investigative reporter Gary Webb found evidence of the CIA’s involvement in the drug trade. The Mercury published it. The CIA then used its media assets, such as the Washington Post, to carry on a campaign against Webb to discredit him. Investigative reporters got the message and have not looked into the CIA’s presence in the Afghan opium drug trade despite the massive growth under US occupation of Afghanistan’s opium share of the world market. The Taliban had suppressed the opium trade, but under US occupation the percentage of the world market supplied by Afghanistan rose from 6% in 2001 to 93% in 2007.
An explosion in drug laws and incarcerations saw the light of the day after President Nixon launched the US War on Drugs in 1971. After 50 years of stable incarceration rates, the number of US prisoners went from 161 per 100,000 population in 1972 to 767 per 100,000 in 2007, almost a fivefold increase. In 2007, federal and state prisons and local jails held nearly 2.3 million inmates (over 20% of the world’s prisoners), but if parolees and probationers are included, the total US correctional population exceeded 7 million. Prisoners have become integrated into the corporate world as privately owned prisons and forced labor have become big businesses. Corporations who owe their low labor cost to prison labor have a vested interest in harsh sentences and expansion of the already seemingly infinite number of laws.
Prohibition of drugs does not deter people from using them. If harsh drug laws deterred people from drugs, not many offenders would be found in correctional facilities with a drug offense on their rap sheet. If we consider the 2015 statistics for people on probation and parole, 25% and 31% respectively had a drug charge as their most serious offense, a total of 1,217,305 people. In 2016, 47% and 15% respectively of federal and state prisoners were in prison for drug violations, their most serious offense. In 2017, federal agents and state police made 1,632,921 arrests for drugs violations of which 85.4% of these arrests were for possession.
These numbers clearly show that harsher sentences do not deter people from drugs. This was also echoed in a study by the Pew Research Center which showed that drug use, drug arrest, and overdose death had no statistically significant relationship with drug imprisonment. That is, higher incarceration rates did not deter people from drugs. Drug laws also result in the murders of many people by police in violation of due process. As police are seldom held accountable for their crimes, the legal and constitutional protections of citizens are being lost.
Moreover, prohibition leads to secondary crimes as indicated by a study that showed “17% of state and 18% of federal prisoners committed their crimes to obtain money for drugs.” If cigarettes, alcohol and chocolate were outlawed tomorrow, prices would rise, vicious syndicates would appear and people would commit real crimes, including robbery and theft in order to get their preferred stimulant. Prohibition of alcohol in the US and elsewhere produced a new class of criminal activity. It should come as no surprise that a study by Coyne et al concluded that “prohibition is not only ineffective, but counterproductive, at achieving the goals of policymakers both domestically and abroad … the domestic War on Drugs has contributed to an increase in drug overdoses and fostered and sustained the creation of powerful drug cartels.”
Getting access to drug war expenditures is notoriously difficult, but a 2010 estimate showed that one trillion dollars in tax revenue have been spent on the War on Drugs since 1971. Nevertheless a multiyear study, published in the British Medical Journal by Werb et al, concluded that “expanding efforts at controlling the global illegal drug market through law enforcement are failing.” It appears that the US War on Drugs has been a disaster for the average American, but has enriched certain powerful organizations.
Some governments not only participate in the illegal drug trade, but also approve the production and sale of addictive drugs by private businesses. Many of the drugs that can be purchased on the street from your average drug dealer have been approved by the FDA, including amphetamines, MDMA, opioids, psilocybin and methamphetamine. One of these drugs is called Adzenys which is a formulation of amphetamine (yes, it is the same drug sold by street dealers), has been approved by the FDA for children. This amphetamine drug comes in “great-tasting” fruit and candy flavors for children who do not like taking pills. Possible side effects include addiction, heart attack, and death.
Large pharmaceutical corporations which have deep financial ties to policymakers produce and distribute these drugs on a grand scale. The US government cashes in on the drugs via taxation and through campaign contributions from these multibillion dollar industries. Transparency International concludes: “Pharmaceutical companies can unduly influence national political systems through their large spending power. Pharmaceutical companies often fund candidates that support their position on key issues. Outside of elections, the pharmaceutical industry spends vast sums of money lobbying.”
Professor Peter Gøtzsche, former director of the independent Nordic Cochrane Centre, shows in his book, Lethal Medicine and Organized Crime, that legalized drugs kill at least 200,000 Americans and also 200,000 Europeans every year. Half of those people take their drugs as prescribed, the other half die because of contraindications and accidental overdoses.
Data from the CDC show that in 2017, heroin and cocaine killed 15,482 and 13,942 Americans respectively. However, 88,000 died from alcohol related causes, over 480,000 from tobacco, but zero died from a cannabis overdose.
There are innumerable examples of how laws turn citizens into criminals. On June 1, 2012, in Denmark, anyone without a permit could purchase an air gun with a caliber in excess of 4.5 millimeters. However, on June 2 such possession brought a prison sentence. Every day governments define the word “criminal” more and more broadly. Eventually, by existence alone we will all be criminals.
Søren Korsgaard, author of America’s Jack the Ripper: The Crimes and Psychology of the Zodiac Killer, is the editor-in-chief of Radians & Inches: The Journal of Crime. He may be contacted via Editor@RadiansANDInches.com.